Throughout video game history, the element of choice has never factored prominently towards a game’s progress. Even with an abundance of gameplay elements, video games always corral you to its own desired ending.
With Detroit: Become Human, developer Quantic Dream completely leaves that option to you. Besides a unique cinematic experience, Detroit brings a complete create-your-own-adventure set inside a near-future sci-fi world.
Welcome to Detroit
Like its predecessors Heavy Rain and Beyond: Two Souls, Detroit: Become Human mixes its plot seamlessly with its gameplay. Because both are so intertwined, it becomes impossible to talk about one without the other.
Detroit brings us to its eponymous city in 2038. Despite being set two decades into the future, the Motor City doesn’t differ greatly from how it is now. Cars, houses, and clothing styles strangely look the same. However, for all its similarities, the Detroit (and everywhere else) of the future differs in one crucial aspect: artificially intelligent androids exist.
As predicted, humanity has invented compliant and intelligent robots that can do our bidding as servants, companions, and even occasional lovers. Unfortunately, things aren’t as smooth as they seem. Everywhere, androids have started to rebel against their masters. Humanity would call them “deviants.”
In Detroit, you control three androids portrayed through their own respective points of view. Connor is a prototype police android tasked with investigating why androids are turning deviant. Kara is a housewife managing an abusive father’s house and his daughter. Markus is a companion robot caring for an aging artist.
With three characters, Quantic Dream created three distinct perspectives to separate each story from the other. Besides three collaborative ones, each chapter takes on a different tone and theme.
From gameplay elements to the soundtrack, each perspective is its own story. Even if you isolate them as separate stories, they can still exist individually as an adequately drawn game.
For the most part, every character is isolated in its own world. Detroit successfully created different moods for each story. Connor’s story and gameplay takes on a CSI vibe. Kara’s story has a more familial vibe. Finally, Markus’ story has a more revolutionary tone.
A well-written science fiction story is always an excellent medium to depict a cautionary tale of the future a la Black Mirror. Like that show, Detroit starts off with an optimistic, well-rounded vision of the almost-near future. In that vision, androids have elevated humanity into new technological levels.
Unfortunately, this breath of fresh air eventually degrades to an on-the-nose civil rights story. From the onset, Detroit already hints that android rights lack the same modicum of respect that human rights do.
While civil rights stories shine in the spotlight today, Detroit hammers it down a little too much. Case in point, the story’s android rights movement uses too much historic taglines like “we have a dream” and “we think therefore we are.” Despite its create-your-own nature, Detroit really wants you to care about its androids.
For what it’s worth, its background worldbuilding excels. Through in-game magazines and TV screens, the game explores other facets of 2038’s world — politics, sports, interpersonal relationships, and transportation.
Do choices really matter?
Thankfully, yes. As with Quantic Dream’s other games, Detroit features a vast river of branching paths. Every decision — whether major or trivial — affects future chapters. Even missing a single slip of paper in one scene blocks you from significant decisions in future scenes.
Despite the allure of unlocking every option possible, the game naturally blocks you from achieving — or at least, unlocking — every option. Some scenes even lock users into time limits, both explicitly shown and hidden.
Further, developers have also highlighted the game’s permadeath options. A persistent worry, however, is if Detroit will have copouts when it deals with death. Thankfully, death is a real option in the game. In my first playthrough, a key character didn’t make it to the end credits. While there are some copout moments, permadeaths for both side and main characters remain a possibility throughout.
Fortunately, Detroit shows you which branches and options you’ve unlocked during your playthrough. The developers adamantly encourage gamers to finish a playthrough first before backtracking into new branches. However, the temptation to replay a chapter is always there.
Press X to pay respects
Unlike most games, Detroit does not have a standard verb set. Besides the traditional movement stick and some interfaces, there are no dedicated run, use, and shoot buttons. Random prompts often appear to perform certain actions.
Usually, this isn’t a problem. In a laidback investigation portion, prompts are easy enough to decipher. However, as is the norm with Quantic Dream, the game also includes nerve-wracking quick-time events (QTEs) to get through action and chase scenes. While this is the best use of the janky controls, it’s not the best way to tell a story. The harried pressure to press the right button in time often takes away from the game’s cinematic element.
Realistic dolls in an empty dollhouse
The video game industry has come a long way from the polygonal character designs of yesteryear. Detroit pushes that boundary even further with its motion-captured performances. From cinematic cutscenes to trivial fidgets, Quantic Dream created extraordinarily realistic characters. The three main characters even share an uncanny likeness with the actual actors who play them.
Unfortunately, Detroit’s background visuals are less desirable. With interactable elements scattered throughout a scene, the game often plays out like an old-school point-and-click adventure game. However, they lack the random charm of those lovable games. Besides the actual objectives, Detroit’s backgrounds feel blank and empty. Even if they’re filled with details and background actors, neither Connor, Kara, nor Markus can interact with them other than just walking past. For a game that puts the premium on character design, Detroit falls short on delivering a thriving physical world.
Regardless, with its choice-driven narrative and superb character design, Detroit: Become Human marks a turning point for video games. It opens the industry as a medium for cinematic but interactive storytelling.
Despite its flaws, Detroit: Become Human is still a loving homage to the choose-your-own-adventures and point-and-click games of before.
A beginner’s guide to Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
Niantic, Inc. has just rolled out its brand new game to over 150 countries worldwide over the weekend. Harry Potter: Wizards Unite is also a location-based game that uses augmented reality and builds on the current platform of the company’s games Pokémon Go and Ingress.
Quick disclosure: I’m far from being a Potterhead so I might not get the right terms related to the franchise in this article. Although, I’m a long-time and current player of Pokémon Go hence I checked out Wizards Unite.
Onto the game itself. If you’re like some players I know who would rather just get to the game right away and skip the numerous pages of introduction and dialogues, the main plot of the story is pretty simple. A mysterious event called Calamity has struck resulting in certain magical items and beings to scatter in the real world.
It is your job as part of the Statute of Secrecy Task Force to bring these items, people, and creatures back to the Wizarding World and complete your registry. This registry acts like your Pokédex and tells you what you have and things to look out for.
Throughout the game, you will come across different terms, items, and structures. Let’s take a quick look at the basic elements of the game:
Professions – Just like in the books and movies, you can choose from three types of professions once you reach level six. These are Auror, Magizoologist, and Professor.
Each has its own strengths and weaknesses and complements the other two during battles. It’s important to note that you can later on switch professions if you wish to but the upgrades already bought could no longer be reattributed.
Confoundables vs Foundables – In Wizards Unite, foundables are those you hunt down to bring back to their proper time and location. Meanwhile, you banish the confoundables that are responsible for getting the foundables stuck in our world.
Casting Spells – In order to banish confoundables, you need to cast spells by accurately tracing the pattern shown on your smartphones. There are about ten spells available as of the time of writing but the company says they will eventually be adding more. In addition to accuracy of tracing, speed also plays a big part to achieve a “Masterful” trace (there’s Fair, Good, Great, and Masterful).
Spell Energy – You’ll need to have spell energy to cast spells. Initially, you’re allotted up to 75 energy points and you use them whenever you try to cast spells on the confoundables. When it reaches zero, it’s basically the equivalent of running out of Pokéballs and you could no longer “catch” foundables.
Structures – Structures like Inns and Greenhouses are your way of getting more spell energy and ingredients to make useful potions. Inns will give out energy by dining in them, while Greenhouses churn out ingredients to make different potions. So playing in areas densely populated with Inns and Greenhouses will ensure you have the resources for a more efficient grinding session.
There’s a third kind of structure and it’s the Fortress. A fortress is a place where up to four friends can join forces and battle together different sets of magical creatures to further upgrade their abilities and come across rarer entries for the registry. Every tier gets tougher and tougher so it encourages players to team up with new players and overcome stronger foes.
Potions – As mentioned earlier, you can concoct your own potions by getting ingredients from Greenhouses. As per usual, these potions vary with different effects and can be used in battles either to heal yourself, make the spell more effective, or prevent the foundable from departing away and missing the chance to add it to your registry.
Portkeys – To get you moving while playing the game, you’ll be able to collect Portkeys that only open after walking certain distances in the real world. Right now there are 2KM/5KM/10KM variations of Portkeys and once it’s opened, it has the power to bring you to different locations so you can collect items and even XP.
Now that most of the basics have been covered, here are some tips to keep in mind while playing based on me and my wife’s experiences.
- Download all assets as soon as you can. This will make loading times faster while performance will be more stable.
- Turn on Trace Auto-Align to make encounters with AR slightly faster
- An Inn with a green color serves up to 10 energy points, purple and blue give up to seven, brown up to six, and a pink one only dishes out a maximum of three energy points.
- Master Notes are secret patterns that reduce brewing time of potions. Figure it out by checking the available patterns at the Potions Info page.
- As the stages you battle in Fortresses level up, magical creatures grow stronger. Having a friend to fight alongside you will be needed even more so in the higher tiers of Fortress matches.
- If you see a floating icon with a beam of light above it, it means it’s a high risk foundable with high rewards. Be sure to get it!
- Use Dark Detectors for rarer foundables to appear, Exstimulo potions against higher risk foundables, and Baruffio’s Brain Elixir before claiming rewards like Portkeys to get double XP.
- Flags and smoke from Greenhouses and Inns, respectively, signify they’re still on cooldown.
- Be sure to have enough energy before battling at Fortresses. Quitting during an unfinished session will render the Runestone useless.
- Turning off AR during encounters is easier for the phone and will save precious battery life.
- Just keep on playing. Niantic’s games reward players who just keep on exploring new things (or simply staying) in the game.
If there’s anything we missed or if you want to add to these tips, be sure to leave a comment!
Dr. Mario World is coming to Android and iOS in a few weeks
A classic coming back to life!
After a week from E3 2019, Nintendo has announced the release of its latest mobile game. The Japanese game company has been reviving its classic titles lately and the newest one coming to our phones is Dr. Mario World.
A new trailer for Dr. Mario World gives us our first look at the game. From the looks of it, it’s going to be pretty different yet familiar. Instead of a Tetris-style gameplay where the capsules fall down the screen, Dr. Mario World will require players to drag the capsules on the playing field. Since the game will be played on phones with touchscreens, this approach makes better sense than left-right buttons.
Like most free-to-play titles, the game will have in-app purchases that’ll help players progress in the game. The game also has countdown timers and character customizations.
The original Dr. Mario game came out in 1990 and it instantly became one of the best Nintendo titles. It was originally developed for the NES. It was ported and remade for multiple platforms after.
Taiwan Excellence is holding its first esports cup in the Philippines
With a prize pool of P360,000
Esports continue to grow in the Philippines thanks to the help from both organizations and major brands. The latest to make its mark in the local competitive scene is Taiwan Excellence, which will be holding an esports cup in Manila beginning in July.
With the help of the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) and Taiwan’s Bureau of Foreign Trade (BOFT), there’ll be a PhP 360,000 prize pool for the expected 2,000 participants from across the country. The featured games are Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) and League of Legends (LOL).
Registration for the tournament begins on June 15. The first phase of the competition will start on July 6 for CS:GO and August 3 for LOL. The grand finals will happen from October 4 to 5 at SM North EDSA The Block, Quezon City. Taiwan Excellence’s esports cup was previously held in Malaysia and Thailand.
“Taiwan is known for its breakthrough electronics industry, with renowned innovations and quality products being developed for global distribution. Now with esports, we take pride in sharing that industry-leading brands are from Taiwan, with Filipino gamers,” said C.T. Wu, director of the Strategic Marketing Dept. at TAITRA.
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